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Sun Belt Conference Football news and notes

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From the Sun Belt Conference

WKU Tops Kentucky, Middle Tennessee Downs Memphis
Western Kentucky University and Middle Tennessee scored major victories over instate opponents on Saturday with WKU defeating Kentucky and Middle Tennessee defeating Memphis.

WKU's win over the Wildcats was the first for WKU in four games over the instate rival, and the first win in history for the Hilltoppers over a team from the Southeastern Conference. The win also made it back-to-back weeks that the Sun Belt Conference has recorded a win over a team from the SEC.

The Hilltoppers have now won nine of their last 11 games dating back to last season. They are also 2-1 to start a season for the first time since 2007.

Middle Tennessee, meanwhile, helped the Sun Belt Conference's record against Conference USA. Through three weeks, the Sun Belt holds a 3-1 edge over teams from CUSA.

Including this year's record against CUSA and last year's 5-3 mark against that league, the Sun Belt Conference stands at 8-4 against CUSA.

The upcoming week's action will be highlighted by a Friday night ESPN primetime showing of ULM hosting Baylor. The Warhawks are coming off of a close loss to Auburn in overtime after having defeated Arkansas the previous week.

 

Recent Results

 

September 15
Auburn 31, Louisiana-Monroe 28 (OT) (SEC Network/ESPN3) - 11 a.m.
Nebraksa 42, Arkansas State 13 (ESPN2) - 11 a.m.
Oklahoma State 65, Louisiana-Lafayette 24 (Fox Sports Net) - 11 a.m.
Central Florida 33, FIU 20 (CSS) - 4 p.m.
NC State 31, South Alabama 7 (ESPN3) - 5 p.m.
Mississippi State 30, Troy 24 (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.
WKU 32, Kentucky 31 (OT) (ESPNU) - 6 p.m.
Middle Tennessee 48, Memphis 30 - 6 p.m.
#15 Kansas State 35, North Texas 21 - 6 p.m.
#7 Georgia 56, Florida Atlantic 20 (CSS/ESPN3) - 6:30 p.m.

 

Upcoming Games

Friday, September 21
Baylor at Louisiana-Monroe (ESPN) - 7 p.m.

 

September 22
Florida Atlantic at Alabama (PPV) - 4 p.m.
Louisville at FIU (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.
Southern Mississippi at Western Kentucky (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.
* Troy at North Texas (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.
Alcorn State at Arkansas State (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.
South Alabama at Mississippi State (PPV) - 6 p.m.

 

September 29
Louisiana-Monroe at Tulane (CST) - 2:30 p.m.
* Troy at South Alabama (Sun Belt Network) - 2:30 p.m.
* North Texas at Florida Atlantic - 4 p.m. (ESPN3)
* FIU at Louisiana-Lafayette (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.
* Western Kentucky at Arkansas State (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.
Middle Tennessee at Georgia Tech - 6 p.m.

 

Week Three Sun Belt Conference Football Players of the Week – As selected by the Sun Belt media panel

 

Offensive Player of the Week

 

Antonio Andrews (WKU, Jr., RB)
WKU junior running back Antonio Andrews led the Hilltoppers to an overtime victory at Kentucky on Saturday, rushing 34 times for 125 yards and three touchdowns in the 32-31 overtime win. All three of those numbers were career highs. He also caught three passes for 36 yards, and finished the night with 233 all-purpose yards. After scoring his third touchdown on WKU's possession in OT, the Hilltoppers lined up for a two-point conversion to win the game. Andrews took a lateral from quarterback Kawaun Jakes, rolled right, and threw back to a wide open Jakes who walked into the end zone for game-winning score. Through three weeks, Andrews ranks first in the Sun Belt, and sixth nationally, with 197.7 all-purpose yards per game.

 

Defensive Player of the Week

 

Jonathan Dowling (WKU, So., DB)
WKU sophomore safety Jonathan Dowling became just the fifth Hilltopper in history – and the first since 1978 – to record three interceptions in a game as picked off Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith three times in WKU's 32-31 overtime victory against the Wildcats. Two of Dowling's three picks came in the first half, as he returned the second 36 yards to the two yard line leading to a WKU touchdown. The Bradenton, Fla., native racked up 70 total return yards on his three INTs. Dowling also finished with four tackles in the game. Dowling's four interceptions through three games is tied for the most in the nation.

 

Special Teams Player of the Week

 

Hendrix Brakefield (WKU, Jr., P)
WKU junior punter Hendrix Brakefield averaged 40.2 yards per punt on four kicks Saturday at Kentucky. Brakefield boomed his third 50-plus yard punt of the season with a 51 yarder late in the fourth quarter, and for the third time this season dropped a punt inside the opponent's 20. The Nashville, Tenn., junior also averaged 59.2 yards on four kickoffs against the Wildcats. He is currently third in the league, averaging 41.6 yards per punt.

 

Around the Sun Belt Conference

WKU, ULM Top SEC Foes
ULM defeated then #8 ranked Arkansas on September 8 and WKU followed up with a win over Kentucky on September 15. The two wins against SEC programs were the first for both institutions, it also marked the first time that Sun Belt Conference has had wins against the SEC in back-to-back weeks. ULM's win over Arkansas also marked the first time that a Sun Belt Conference team has defeated a top-ten ranked opponent.

Team News and Notes

Arkansas State Red Wolves
Arkansas State will carry a seven-game home winning streak into its final non-conference outing of the regular season Saturday, hosting FCS member Alcorn State at 6 p.m. on ESPN3.com . . . ASU is off to a 1-2 start for the fourth consecutive year, picking up its lone victory against Memphis and dropping road games against two nationally-ranked programs in Oregon and Nebraska . . . Saturday's game will be the first ever meeting between Arkansas State and Alcorn State . . . While A-State and Alcorn State will meet for the first time Saturday, the Red Wolves have played four other opponents among the current SWAC?membership all-time and holds a 5-0 record in those games . . . Dating back to the 2002 campaign, the Red Wolves have won their last six games against FCS foes by a combined 349-57 score . . . Sophomore linebacker Qushaun Lee recorded a career-high 15 tackles against Nebraska, which were the most by an ASU player since 2010 and tied the most by a Sun Belt player this year . . . Senior linebacker Nathan Herrold matched his season-high tackles total with 11 against the Huskers, marking the second time over ASU's first three games this year he has posted double-figure stops. Herrold is ranked second in the SBC and tied for 28th in the nation in tackles . . . Senior kicker Bryan Davis has made two field goals in ASU's first three games this year to give him eight career games with multiple field goals . . . Redshirt freshman wide receiver J.D. McKissic recorded a team-high 8 receptions against Nebraska, matching his career high set the week before against Memphis and moving him into a tie for the third highest receptions total in the SBC this season (6.7 per game) . . . The Red Wolves 11-game streak with at least 300 yards total offense came to an end against Nebraska.

Florida Atlantic Owls
Florida Atlantic University's football team (1-2) travels to Tuscaloosa, AL this weekend where the Owls will face the nation's top ranked team, University of Alabama, 5 p.m., Saturday, September 22. The matchup is the second-consecutive top-10 opponent for the Owls and the second-consecutive SEC opponent, coming off a 56-20 loss to No. 7 University of Georgia.

FAU tied the Georgia game at seven with 2:30 remaining in the opening quarter on a 43-yard run by Damian Fortner. The Bulldogs would go up 14-7 minutes later, but Graham Wilbert, who was 18-31-1 for 183 yards, led FAU into the end zone four plays later connecting with Nexon Dorvilus to even the contest.

"I was confident coming into the game, you could see signs all week in practice," said FAU Head Coach Carl Pelini. "The speed, execution, the assignments, the mistakes are going away. We can be pretty good. I think our offense made a jump this week."

Fortner rushed for a career high 81 yards and scored his first career rushing touchdown, second TD of the year. William Dukes was the hot receiver with five catches for 98 yards. The defensive highlight was Adarius Glanton's pick-off, his first interception for the Owls and returned it 42-yards for the score. The linebacker had eight tackles on the night. Senior Brent Harstad had a career high and game high 12 tackles while fellow safety Jeremy McKnight matched his tackle production and added a diving interception in the end zone.

FIU Panthers
This week's Louisville game marks the fourth and final non-conference game for FIU during the regular season. The Panthers begin Sun Belt play next saturday, Sept. 29, on the road at Louisiana-Lafayette

FIU enters the game off a road loss, 33-20, at UCF. In the game, FIU overcame a slow start in the first half to outscore UCF, 20-10, in the second half. The Panthers narrowly came within one touchdown with the Knights, 20-30, after Darian Mallary scored his second touchdown on the day near the end of the third quarter, but FIU missed on the two-point attempt.

Mallary, a senior from Miami's Gulliver Prep, has had a brilliant start to his final campaign with the Blue and Gold. He has scored a team-best five touchdowns this season, including back-to-back games with two rushing TD's.

The seniors are shining on defense, with Johnathan Cyprien, Winston Fraser and Jordan Hunt 1-2-3 on the team in tackles. Tourek Williams leads FIU with 4.5 tackles for loss. For his efforts at UCF, Williams was named the National Defensive Lineman of the Week from College Football Performance Awards. Williams tied a career-high with nine tackles in the game, including four tackles for loss and one sack.

FIU, in its 11th season playing football and eighth at the FBS level, are playing a school, Louisville, whose program dates back to 1912. Aside from UCF (1979 began, 1996 FBS), FIU's first two opponents, Duke and Akron, had 212 collective years playing college football (Duke, 100; Akron 112).

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
After suffering their first defeat of the season, a 65-24 setback at Oklahoma State on Saturday, the Cajuns will have their first bye week of the season before returning to Sun Belt Conference play to host FIU on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 6:00 p.m. in Cajun Field.

The Cajuns are in a first place tie with Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt after claiming a 37-24 decision at Troy on Sept. 8. The Cajuns will put its six-game Cajun Field win streak on the line against FIU, the fourth-longest in facility history.

Senior Javone Lawson came to life against the Cowboys, making eight catches for 92 yards to move into eighth place on the Cajuns career chart in receptions (108) and raise his career receiving total to 1,634 yards (9th).

Senior Brett Baer missed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide left in the second quarter to snap his Sun Belt record of 18 consecutive field goals made going back to last season. Baer came back to connect on a 41-yard effort in the third quarter to improve to eight-for-nine this year and remain tied for the nation's lead in field goals made per game.

Junior Justin Anderson leads the Cajuns with 27 tackles this year, including back-to-back double figure efforts at Troy (11 tackles) and OSU (10). Anderson entered the year having made 21 tackles in 17 career games.

Through three games, the Ragin' Cajuns rank fifth nationally with a +2.0 turnover margin. The Cajuns have committed just two turnovers this season, both fumbles, while making three interceptions and making five fumble recoveries.

With Brett Baer ranking 34th nationally in punting (43.0), the Cajuns are an impressive 13th nationally in net punting. Cajun opponents have returned punts for just 34 yards this year, giving the Cajuns a 41.0 net punting average, tops in the Sun Belt.

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
Friday night's meeting against Baylor will be the first meeting between the Warhawks and the Bears. ULM is 0-7 all-time against current Big 12 members.

Through two games in 2012, ULM is 9-for-11 (82%) on fourth down. The 2011 squad converted 12 fourth downs (27 attempts).

The 62 points amassed by the Warhawks against opponents from the SEC this season are the most in program history. The previous high was 57 points during the 2006 season (at Alabama [7], vs. Arkansas [10] and at Kentucky [40]).

Through two games, Kolton Browning has thrown for 649 yards with 70 completions (113 attempts)... He has six touchdown passes this season with just one interception... He also leads the team in rushing with 127 yards on 30 attempts.

Brent Leonard is the team leader in both receptions (18) and receiving yards (165).

At Auburn, Rob'Donovan Lewis led the ULM defense with nine tackles (6 solo, 3 asst). Meanwhile, Cordero Smith and Cameron Blakes each totalled six tackles and Blakes recorded his first sack of the 2012 season.

Mitch Lane had his first career fumble recovery and his first career interception at Auburn. Lane's fourth quarter interception of Auburn QB Kiehl Frazier allowed the Warhawks to climb within seven points (28-21). Lane leads the Warhawks with 14 tackles (4 solo, 10 asst) this season, while R.J. Young is second with 13 tackles (5 solo, 8 asst).

Redshirt freshman Harley Scioneaux made his first career catch Saturday at Auburn. Scioneaux's grab was a one-yard TD reception on fourth and goal at the Auburn one yard line giving the Warhawks the early lead. It marked the second consecutive week that the Warhawks scored a TD on their first possession. In the fourth quarter, he made his second career reception, also a touchdown, as ULM closed the gap to 28-21 with 6:15 to play.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
The Middle Tennessee defense held the opposition to under 100 yards rushing for the second straight game by limiting the Memphis Tigers to 74 yards on the ground. MT was coming off a 96-yard effort in the win over FAU. The last time MT held an opponent in consecutive games to less than 100 yards rushing was during the 2009 season when it accomplished the feat against Louisiana and Arkansas State.

Quarterback Logan Kilgore topped the 200-yard passing mark for the second time this season and the ninth of his career with 253 yards against Memphis. Kilgore currently ranks 7th all-time on the 200-yard passing list and needs three more to tie for 5th.

For the third straight game, senior receiver Anthony Amos set a personal-best. Amos established a career-best in receiving yardage with 128 yards and receptions with nine against Memphis. In the opener against McNeese he had 8 catches to establish a personal-best then had 102 receiving yards in the win over FAU to set his personal mark in that category.

Redshirt freshman Kevin Byard recorded his first career interception in a big way against the Tigers. Byard took a Jacob Karam pass in the second quarter and returned it 68 yards for his first career TD. It marked the first interception returned for a touchdown by MT since Rod Issac had a 70 yarder against ULM on Oct. 23, 2010. It was also the Blue Raiders' first interception since Nov. 19, 2011 against ASU.

Middle Tennessee did not allow a sack against Memphis to remain tied for 1st nationally. The Blue Raiders have not given up a sack all season.

North Texas Mean Green
North Texas had 353 total yards of offense against Kansas State. It was the most yards for the Mean Green against a Big 12 school on the road since racking up 507 yards of offense against Colorado in 2004.

The Mean Green forced two turnovers against Kansas State and has now forced at least one turnover in 19 of the last 20 games.

North Texas has combined to rush for 816 yards in the last two games at Apogee Stadium. During that time the Mean Green has outscored its opponents 93-14.

Brelan Chancellor is just 48 all-purpose yards away from entering the top-10 all-time at North Texas. Chancellor has 2,950 for his career and 50 more all-purpose yards would make him the fifth player since the 2001 season to top the 3,000 all-purpose yard mark in a career. He leads North Texas with 377 all-purpose yards on the season and could become the first player in 24 years to lead the Mean Green in all-purpose yards in three straight seasons. Not since Marcus Camper lead the Mean Green in all-purpose yards from 1985-88 has a player led North Texas in all-purpose yards in three straight years.

The Mean Green opens their 12th and final season of Sun Belt Conference play against Troy. North Texas in Sun Belt opener since joining the league is 5-6.

Derek Thompson had a career-best 89.2 completion percentage (min. 20 completions) against Kansas State, by completing 25-of-28 passes. Thompson stands at 58.7 percent for his career in completion percentage, which ranks fourth all-time at North Texas.

South Alabama Jaguars
Jake Johnson posted a USA season-high 14 total tackles at North Carolina State Saturday, which included a school game-record 11 unassisted stops; it was the second-highest single game total recorded by a Jaguar in three-plus seasons of competition. He was credited with one tackle for loss, the third game in a row that he has made a stop behind the line of scrimmage, and also had one quarterback hurry. … Junior Alex Page had the best game of his career at N.C. State, finishing with five total tackles including a pair of sacks — both were personal-best totals. Page already has three sacks on the season, surpassing his previous high of 2½ set a year ago. … RB Demetre Baker had career highs in the N.C. State game with five receptions for 55 yards, and he also paced the USA ground attack with 45 yards on seven carries; it was the third time in as many contests that he has been the Jaguars' top rusher. The sophomore's 100 all-purpose yards were a game-high total, marking the first time since he had 111 on Oct. 29 last year that he has reached triple digits in the category. … OLB Clifton Crews was credited with four stops combined in the Jags' first two games of the year, but he posted six against the Wolfpack. That total — which was one less than his career high first set at Georgia State on Oct. 22 last fall — included a career-best 1½ tackles behind the line of scrimmage. … Corey Besteda equaled a previous high with three catches, which included the longest reception of his career; his 43-yard catch from Ross Metheny was the first play on the Jaguars' only scoring drive of the game. He finished with a season-best 68 yards, three shy of his career high set at Kent State on Sept. 24 a year ago. … Bryson James forced his first fumble since Oct. 31, 2009, against the Wolfpack when he poked the ball loose from Brandon Barnes in the third quarter, and he also had his first tackle for loss since the 2010 season opener as well. James finished the NCSU contest with a season-best three stops, all of the solo variety. … Jeremé Jones made just one catch against the Wolfpack, but it was on an eight-yard scoring play in the final six minutes that allowed USA to avoid being shutout for the first time in program history. The sophomore now has a reception in 17 straight games, tying the school record first set by Courtney Smith during the 2009 and '10 seasons. … Senior Tremain Smith made the first start of his career at left tackle, the first time this season that the Jaguars have made a change to their starting five up front on offense … Saturday's loss marked the first time in 30 all-time games the USA defense has not forced a turnover; the Jags are minus-five in turnover margin through three contests this fall.

Troy Trojans
2012 has turned into a season of records for Troy; Corey Robinson set five single-game or career records in Troy's game against Louisiana-Lafayette and a Veterans Memorial Stadium record crowd of 29.013 witnessed the Trojans almost knock off Mississippi State this past weekend ... Troy gashed the nation's 11th-ranked defense for 572 yards and 30 first downs ... Corey Robinson completed 32-of-45 passes for 343 yards, while Shawn Southward rushed for 137 yards and two scores to lead the Troy offense; it was his seventh multi-touchdown game of Southward's career ... Chip Reeves had nine catches for 79 yards, while Eric Thomas had seven catches for 74 yards ... The Trojans did not allow a sack in the game and have allowed just one sack this season in 145 pass attempts ... The 572 yards gained by the Trojans are the most against an SEC team this season (when the game finished) and the Bulldogs entered Saturday's contest having allowed just 481 yards combined in their first two games ... It was also the second most yards given up during Dan Mullen's four-year tenure as the head coach of the Bulldogs ... The game marked the first time an SEC opponent has ever visited Veterans Memorial Stadium in the 63-year history of the facility (opened 1950) ... Running back Shawn Southward's two-touchdown performance gave him 162 career points, tying him for 10th place with Vince Green (1967-70) ... Quarterback Corey Robinson's 343-yard game marked the 15th 300-yard performance of his career ... Troy returns to Sun Belt play this weekend at North Texas

WKU Hilltoppers
WKU improved to 2-1 on the season in dramatic fashion with a 32-31 overtime victory at Kentucky on Saturday, winning the game with a two-point conversion in overtime.

The Hilltoppers improved to 9-1 all-time in overtime games, and 4-0 in OT under Willie Taggart.

The win over the Wildcats was the first for WKU in four games over the instate rival, and the first win in history for the Hilltoppers over a team from the Southeastern Conference.

The Hilltoppers earned their first win in 21 tries against teams from a BCS automatic qualifying conference since 2001.

Junior running back Antonio Andrews set new career highs in rushing attempts (34), rushing yards (125), rushing touchdowns (3) and all-purpose yards (233).

The Hilltopper defense came up with four interceptions in the game — including three in the first half. That was the most since it picked off Murray State four times on Sept. 20, 2008.

Jonathan Dowling accounted for three of WKU's four interceptions on the game. It marked just the fifth time in school history that a Hilltopper defender had intercepted at least three passes in a game, and the first time since Carl Brazley had three picks against East Tennessee State on Sept. 30, 1978.

Junior college transfer Brett Harrington recorded his first career interception on Kentucky's opening drive of the game.

The Hilltoppers have now won nine of their last 11 games dating back to last season. They are also 2-1 to start a season for the first time since 2007.

Georgia State Panthers (Coming in 2013)
Georgia State plays the first conference game in school history as the Panthers host Colonial Athletic Association foe Richmond Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Georgia Dome.

With GSU's reclassification to the Football Bowl Subdivision and move to the Sun Belt Conference in 2013, this fall marks the Panthers' first and only season of CAA Football.

Georgia State (0-3) is seeking its first victory of the season following Saturday's 38-14 loss to UTSA, while the Spiders stand at 2-1 after downing VMI, 47-6.

Georgia State punter Matt Hubbard owns the top punting average in college football, averaging 50.6 yards per kick. Nine of his 15 punts have travelled 50 yards or more, including his amazing 80-yard boot against South Carolina State. Because of Georgia State's reclassification to the Football Bowl Subdivison, Hubbard does not qualify for NCAA rankings in FBS or FCS, but his average would easily top either division. The top average in FCS belongs to Tony Epperson of Weber State at 48.0, while Sean Sellwood of Utah leads FBS at 48.88.

Not only does Georgia State head coach Bill Curry have two sons of former players on his own team (Mark Hogan and Nick Henderson), but against Richmond, he will also be facing the son of one of his former players. Richmond safety Cooper Taylor, a senior from Atlanta, is the son of former Georgia Tech quarterback Jim Bob Taylor, who played for Curry in 1981-82. Taylor spent his first three seasons at Georgia Tech before transferring to Richmond for the 2011 season. Richmond head coach Danny Rocco played at Wake Forest from 1981-83, and the Deacons fell to Bill Curry-coached Georgia Tech teams in 1982 (GT 45-7) and 1983 (GT 49-33).

The highlight of Georgia State's game against UTSA was the 84-yard touchdown pass from Ben McLane to Albert Wilson on the Panthers' third snap for the longest play from scrimmage in Georgia State history. Wilson, the junior from Port St. Lucie, Fla., has a hand in the three longest plays from scrimmage in GSU history with touchdown catches covering 78 and 64 yards last season against South Alabama. Add his 97-yard kickoff return against Alabama in 2010, and he has been involved in four of the five longest plays in Panther annals (Darren McCray had a 96-yard kickoff return vs. Campbell in 2010). Wilson's 11 career touchdowns have covered an average of 51.8 yards.

Texas State Bobcats (Coming in 2013)
The Bobcats enter their next game on Sept. 22 looking to win their sixth straight game and eighth victory in nine games against the Lumberjacks.

Texas State is 1-1 for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Bobcats opened the 2012 season with a 30-13 victory at Houston on Sept. 1 before dropping their last game against Texas Tech. The win at Houston marked the first time in school history the Bobcats opened a season with a win over an FBS team.

The Bobcats played its home opener at Texas Tech in front of a crowd of 30,006 at Bobcat Stadium to set a school attendance record of 16,600 that was set against Texas A&M-Kingsville in 1981.

Texas State scored all 10 of its points against Texas Tech in the second quarter when junior quarterback Tyler Arndt threw his first touchdown pass of the season with a 25-yard touchdown pass and Will Johnson added an extra point and a 38-yard field goal. Those 10 points give the Bobcats a combined 23 points in the second period during their first two games. Texas State also scored 13 points at Houston to open the season.

Johnson's field goal against Texas Tech was his fourth field goal of the season. He has made all three of his attempts inside the 40-yard line in 2012 after beginning is collegiate career making just four of eight field goal attempts inside the 40 last season.

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